Holding Corporations to Account: towards an Economic Democracy?

We take it for granted that we get to vote in elections, but that is of course a relatively recent innovation. Universal suffrage only occurred in 1928. However most of us don’t get a say in how corporations organise our economy. They produce accounts for their shareholders but largely ignore their other stakeholders such as employees, customers, suppliers and wider society, despite recent attempts to enhance corporate reporting. And only the shareholders get a vote, which few use. In the meantime, although governments do regulate corporations, their aim is largely to stop illegality rather than to create an economy that serves us all.

But the fact is that the everyday operations of our largest companies affect us all in our everyday lives, as well as our future prospects. In a very real sense the future of our planet is in their hands, whilst in the shorter term if they go bankrupt, as Thomas Cook recently did, they can have huge immediate impacts on their employees, customers and suppliers.

So should and could corporations be more accountable to their stakeholders beyond investors? And how might that work in practice? These are the questions that Richard Murphy and Rita Samiolo set out to answer followed by open discussion.

Richard Murphy

Richard Murphy is a chartered accountant and a political economist, an anti-poverty campaigner and a tax expert. He is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London …

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Rita Samiolo

Rita is Lecturer in Accounting and Financial Management at King’s College London. Rita’s research is in the area of social and institutional studies of accounting. She is particularly interested in …

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